Ofcom has announced that it will auction off spectrum in the 700MHz band next year, but winning bidders will be subject to strict obligations to help boost geographical coverage in the UK


The UK’s regulatory body, Ofcom will hold an auction for mobile spectrum in the 700MHz range next year, providing a genuine opportunity to radically boost mobile coverage in the UK, according to the regulator’s chief executive, Sharon White.

Speaking at the Connected Britain event on Tuesday, White said that by the time the spectrum goes on sale, Ofcom estimates that there will still be around 200,000 homes and businesses in the UK that cannot receive a decent broadband signal.  

"We are about to auction spectrum in the 700MHz band next year, which will be ideal for covering wide areas, and we plan to place obligations on winning bidders," White said.

Currently one quarter of the UK lacks comprehensive coverage (i.e. the ability to receive a signal from all four UK mobile network operators simultaneously), including the vast majority of the UK’s roads.

"I don’t want to discourage some of the current plans that are in place to get a 4G signal on the moon, but at the same time we have to be cognisant that you currently can’t get one on the A70," White joked.

Ofcom plans to place strict obligations on operators who win spectrum at next year’s auction, as White explains:

As a regulator, we must set some strong rules to boost signal as we make new airwaves available for mobile users.

"We have consulted on plans for one successful bidder to introduce good, indoor reception for most of these [200,000] premises.

"To improve reception for people on the move, we have plans that will require at least two operators to reach 92 per cent coverage of the land mass of the UK with a signal good enough to make calls, watch videos and browse the internet.

"We also have plans in place to bring better connectivity to the home nations in the UK – where coverage is currently poor. We estimate that coverage would rise by 12 per cent in Scotland and 8 per cent in Wales," she concluded.